How do you deal with money in a relationship? Money causes stress in most romantic relationships, but to build a future couples need to talk about finances. Sign up for Ilyce Glink’s Love, Money + Real Estate newsletter. This story was updated December 1, 2021

When should you tell a romantic partner how much money you make or how much debt you have?

How Do You Deal With Money in a Relationship?

More than 30 percent of Americans said money causes them the most stress in their romantic relationships, according to research by The Ascent.  

Knowing how and when to discuss money in a relationship is tricky. Most people carry some sort of debt these days and it can be embarrassing and awkward to talk about money when you’re in a relationship, but if you want to build a future with them it’s something that has to happen at some point.

The Ascent wanted to know when couples reach financial “milestones” including everything from lending a partner money for the first time to saving for retirement together. The timeline they created from their research reveals how financial milestones unfold at different stages in a relationship.

Money “Milestones” for Couples in Relationships

The research shows that it took people, on average, a year of dating to feel comfortable disclosing their full financial situation with a romantic partner. Strangely, most couples felt comfortable letting their partner borrow their credit card after just two months into the relationship, but wouldn’t reveal their annual salary until at least nine months in. Shortly after that money milestone, they’d disclosed their debt level and account balances. After 15 months, they felt comfortable revealing their credit score.

The Ascent compared these money “milestones” to traditional relationship milestones and it’s interesting to note that before discussing salaries and debts most couples had already shared their full medical history, met their partner’s parents, traveled together and even said “I love you.” The research indicates that a significant amount of trust needs to be established in a relationship before approaching these critical conversations about money.

People in Relationships Want This Money Trait in a Romantic Partner

When you think about dealing with money in a relationship, having a high salary and impressive investment profile didn’t even make the top 10 most desired traits in a romantic partner. Those in a relationship were most likely to desire a partner who sets financial goals, is employed full time or follows a budget. Other positive money traits that made the top ten include a partner who is financially independent, makes payments on time, has a savings account, saves a percentage of each paycheck, has an emergency fund, pays their monthly credit card balance in full and frequently tracks spending.

The most desired money traits varied both by gender and generation. While men and women agreed generally about four of the top five desired money traits, they differed on one big one: Men prefer a relationship partner who makes payments on time and for women, it was more important that their relationship partner has a savings account. Millennials most want a partner who sets financial goals, Generation X wants to be with someone who is employed full time and Baby Boomers say their top priority is having a partner with a savings account.

Money Mingling in Romantic Relationships

Nearly 80 percent of Americans agreed that committed couples should merge their finances at some point. Until that day comes, however, roughly 40 percent of couples use mobile apps to split bills with their partner. Venmo is the mobile payment app of choice for more than 60 percent of couples, followed by Paypal (40.2%), Zelle (25.2%), Apple Pay (17.1%), Square Cash (Cash App) (15.5%) and Facebook Messenger (5.2%).

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